He’s usually found in period pieces like “The King’s Speech” and as the mother-approved lead in romantic comedies. But Colin Firth loosened his tie, and then some, for the new movie ” Kingsman : The Secret Service.” But even coming to action stardom, ahem, later in life, the 54-year-old Oscar winner relished the process.
We caught up with Firth to talk what makes a gentleman, the art of fighting in glasses and what he thinks of still being Mr. Darcy after all these years.
Did you enjoy becoming an action hero for “Kingsman”?
When I finished the six-month training I did for this, it was exhilarating and a new experience for me to learn these skills; I think they are more to do with dance than anything else. But when I did all the stunts in the movie and then I came back to wearing a suit, it wasn’t nearly as exciting. I wanted to get back into the stunts. Hopefully it’s not over.
You manage to keep your glasses on during the fight scenes. Did that annoy you?
I was convinced that the glasses wouldn’t survive. But a part of the story is that the glasses have to stay on because they are loaded with a camera and that’s how the other spies are watching. They had to stay on. And I was convinced that with somersaults and throwing people and all the twists and turns, they would actually fall off at least once in the whole sequence. I’ve now learned that you can fight against 200 people and keep your glasses on.
Do you wear glasses in real life?
Yes, I do. But I don’t like to. I didn’t need glasses until five years ago. In the beginning I loved it. I always quite liked the idea of that distinguished look they give. So I didn’t mind it in the beginning, but now I realize that I am completely dependent on them. So I like them a little less.
Did your family watch the movie? What do they think about it?
I have a 24-year-old son who has seen it. But my younger ones haven’t. But they saw me in training, which they thought was funny.
Do they think you fit the role?
No, they don’t. In fact I asked one of my sons, “Do you think I’m Kingsman material?” And he said, “Probably Johnny English.”
Do you agree?
I’m afraid he is right.
Your character, Harry Hart, says that manners and appearance are important for a true gentleman. What else is important?
Being a gentleman is about courtesy and empathy. I don’t want to see men as anything other than gentlemen.
Hart also said a true gentleman’s name appears in newspapers only three times in his life: to announce his birth, marriage and death. Do you agree?
It might be a good thing to reflect on. I think we are too obsessed with publicity ourselves. So here I am, sitting and talking to you now and doing this interview. But in order to sell anything, we publicize; in order to succeed politically, we publicize. And we do it instinctively even in our slightest thoughts. We take photos of ourselves, our food, we photograph everything around us. And we can’t wait to post it online and publish it. You have that kind of discretion when you stay out of the limelight. I have a duty to promote what I do. But I think in some ways it’s important not to forget about serenity and privacy for all of us – and not just for actors and well-known people.
Good and evil are pretty clear-cut in “Kingsman.” Do you share that point of view?
Only for this kind of movie. “Kingsman” is playing on other movies – it’s about popular culture, it’s about comics. This is about the kind of crazy, improbable James Bond-style movies. I think that in a way it’s kind of a celebration and satire of the cartoonish things that we grow up with. In a serious drama about human conflict, I think that kind of clarity of, “They’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys” is disingenuous. I don’t like it at all. But I think here we are just having fun by making a pastiche of Bond movies, a kind of pantomime version of an action movie. I don’t think you’re supposed to take it seriously. And in some ways Samuel L. Jackson’s villainy is not clear, because his environmental theory is perfectly sound. His solution is the problem. You can believe in his theory without killing everybody.
You have played many roles over the years, but for ordinary people you are still Darcy from “Bridget Jones’ Diary” or “Pride and Prejudice.” Does that bother you?
I don’t mind. I can be whoever they want. I don’t think about it at all. I forgot about caring about that sort of thing back in 1994. I walked out of the set from a job which I enjoyed very much and went on to another job. And I’ve being doing it ever since. So if people remember that, it’s great. But I don’t really have any relationship with playing Darcy any longer. It’s a funny thing being a film actor because if you’re lucky enough to be working, you always like doing something new by the time the last movie comes out. And so I never feel very connected to old work. So it doesn’t bother me at all. If people still remember that role, it’s something to be proud of.